For women* wishing to take their place around the board room table, the structures of an organization can be either enabling or inhibiting.

Within an organization, structural components can include:

  • Constitution and by-laws
  • Policies
  • Operational procedures
  • Programs and services
  • Other political and administrative factors

Every aspect of the way things are done within an organization influence whether aspiring women leaders will feel at ease to become involved – or unwelcome.

  • While women represent more than 70% of the teaching profession in public schools in Canada, they are vastly under-represented in leadership positions.
  • Research demonstrates that quotas should be viewed as a source of organizational strength and opportunity.

Consider the following. Each one could be a key to opening a locked door.

  • Do we have gender-neutral language in our constitution, by-laws and other written documentation?
  • Do we have a Status of Women Committee?
  • Do we have release time for leadership activities?
  • Have we considered quotas for women’s representation in leadership roles?
  • Have we established quotas for women’s representation in leadership activities (including training)?
  • Do we have budget allocations in support of women’s activities and leadership?
  • Could we have nominating committees or other means to identify potential women candidates?
  • Could we provide leadership training for potential/aspiring women candidates?
  • Do we gather evidence locally on barriers to women in leadership?
  • Could we make deliberate and targeted actions to address barriers to women in leadership?
  • Could we create opportunities to observe leaders in action (e.g. observers at Board or General Meeting)?
  • Could we provide childcare/eldercare at meetings/training sessions and other activities?
  • Do we schedule meetings which promote participation (e.g. not always on the weekend)?
  • Have we formalized a fem/mentoring program?
  • Do we offer public speaking training?

Organizational structures can be either restrictive or enabling. Think of the structures within your own organization.

  • Which are enabling? Which are inhibiting? Overall, how would you characterize your organization?
  • What structural changes might need to take place for you to really be able to say that it is an organization which is fully enabling for women to aspire to and be successful in getting and holding leadership positions?

High-performing businesses tend to have more women in leadership roles: 37% of leaders in higher-performing companies are women, compared to 19% of leaders in lower-ranked companies.

  • Could this also be true of teacher organizations?